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July 2011 - Posts

  • Furious minorities (Message from the CTO, newsletter 51)

    It’s again a text-only message this issue, but I’m hopeful that the following will include a video as well.

    Furious minorities

    There was a recent article published by the BBC on their news site ("Why do some Americanisms irritate people?") that provoked one of the most beautiful fact-based putdowns I've seen in a while, where it was revealed that 4 out of 5 words complained about in the original article as being Americanisms were in fact solidly of British origin.

    The wider take-away is not that some words are "impure" and some are "pure" and we should stick to the latter – good luck with that – but that the Internet is like an amplifier permanently stuck on 11.

    There is a furious minority on almost every topic, where the few who are really upset about the status quo or about progress in that field organize and trumpet their peeves to the world. My particular hobby is reading about Grammar N‌a‌zis (or, in this case, Pure Word N‌a‌zis) – mostly in complete bewilderment that anyone could get so worked up about split infinitives or prepositions at the ends of sentences – but there are other continual battles to be enjoyed too.

    The problem is that, with the Internet amp stuck on 11, the furious minorities have a visibility beyond their importance. Those who are less passionate about a topic (the majority, in other words) tend not to post, thereby increasing the perceived influence of the furious minority. All we hear is the screeching of the amp on 11, missing the single person behind the curtain.

    So, all I ask is, before you launch into an albeit therapeutic rant online about some topic, are you that person behind the curtain ready to bellow into a microphone? Are you in a furious minority?

    Notice something though: I’m not saying furious minorities are automatically wrong on every count, all I’m saying is that they should be aware that they might, just might, be in the minority.

    Simple example from my own recent experience: I’ve just purchased a Dell XPS 15z and someone pointed me to a long thread on the Dell forums about how the trackpad was irretrievably broken. I read it, including the final post that finished: “I told [the tech support person] that I'd bet my money that every single XPS 15z actually has this issue”. Now, admittedly, this was on page 3 of the thread, all negative, so the hyperbole was I suppose justified, but it was a classic furious minority: Dell has sold thousands of these machines, the thread had some dozen people, and, guess what, mine didn’t suffer from the reported problem. I was able to help resolve it for some.

  • v2011 vol 1.5 of our VCL Subscriptions released

    No sooner had we released v2011 vol 1.4 of our VCL subscriptions than a serious performance issue cropped up with a particular usage scenario concerning the ExpressQuantumGrid Suite. I’m happy to say that the team have resolved it and have just released v2011 vol 1.5. We strongly recommend that all subscribers download and install this new version.

    You can see the What’s New for v2011 vol 1.5 here.

  • Antisocial networks (Message from the CTO, newsletter 50)

    Again a “text-only” message this time, but this one is a cry for help. I think.

    The über-network of social networks

    I've just signed up for Google+. The invite that finally "took" - all previous invites resulted in "nice try, no spare slots at this time, we're in beta" – was from my predecessor in this position, Richard Morris. He evinced a strong dislike to Facebook, promising to move everything, including his friends list, to Google+ as soon as possible. Me, I didn't particularly care until I fell for one of those fake status updates on someone else's Facebook page, resulting in my Wall being spammed in turn. Now, I'm not so sure.

    But then again, I’m feeling trapped by the sheer number of social networks I belong to. There's Facebook (julian.m.bucknall) and Google+ (jmbucknall@gmail.com), sure, and then following up close are Twitter (@jmbucknall), LinkedIn (jmbucknall), and StackOverflow (boyetboy -- fooled ya!), although the latter isn't really a social network. Isn't it? I see the same people answering all the time, so we're, like, friends, right?

    Of course I had to snag "my" pages on Posterous (jmbucknall) and Tumblr (jmbucknall, again), although I've given up updating them. Foursquare or Yelp? Can't be bothered, you're welcome to them. My previous editor at PC Plus almost got me to sign up to Formspring, but I backed away, mumbling and twitching.

    Wherefore now? It's starting to look like I need an über-network, a meta-network that manages all those other lesser social networks. I'm already seeing duplicate posts on several of them (and I'm as guilty as the next man), so where do I click Like, or +1, or RT, or Favorite, or Share? All of them? Come to that, where do I reply to my, er, friend? Where will they see it first? Where will my other friends, acquaintances, colleagues, random people that follow me, see that I've done my social network duty? That I haven’t let them down?

    Can't someone write this super-social-network app for me? Or can you come round and pry my router from my cold dead hands?

    Thanks.

    So, something out of the ordinary for the 50th issue…

  • DXperience moving to .NET 3.5 or above after next major release

    One of the discussions we had last week was over our continued support for Visual Studio 2005 and .NET versions prior to 3.5. We’ve come to the conclusion that we are unnecessarily limiting the features we can produce for WinForms and ASP.NET.

    Welding Starburstphoto © 2008 Casimiro Zmtih | more info (via: Wylio)(Aside: remember that our WPF and Silverlight products now require Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0 in order that we can provide the best story with regard to design-time and run-time functionality. ASP.NET MVC requires Visual Studio 2008 or later and .NET 3.5 or later already.)

    So what are we missing out with by continuing to support .NET 2.0 with our controls? The most obvious answer is LINQ and lambda expressions. Although we use them to a certain extent in example programs we provide as part of support, we can’t embrace them at all in our core code. That also means we can’t readily provide APIs that support LINQ or lambda expressions.

    Continuing, we have:

    • The var type. Yes, we’d like to use it in certain scenarios since it has the ability to make the code easier to read.
    • Partial classes? Would be nice too, although I’m not sure where we could use them, apart form in our demo apps.
    • Automatic properties? +1, several times over.
    • Anonymous types? Certainly.
    • Extension methods? Well… OK, the jury is still out on that feature for our libraries.
    • WCF? Sure thing, we’d love to use it internally where needed or to provide APIs for it.

    So, we took a look at our customer data with regard to usage of Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0/3.0. It turns out that the number of customers (that we can detect, admittedly) using VS2005 is dropping remarkably quickly. From May last year to June this year, the number of customers using VS2005 has dropped 90%. A year ago, we saw 24% of customers using VS2005, now roughly 3% of our customers are still using it. By November/December, when we release v2011.2, how many will there be?

    The decision we came to is to make v2011.1 the final major release where we will support Visual Studio 2005 and versions of .NET earlier than 3.5, just as we did five years ago when v2006.3 became the final version to support Visual Studio 2002/2003 and .NET 1.x. DXperience v2011.2 will only support Visual Studio 2008 or later, and .NET 3.5 or later.

    So what do you think? Are you still using VS2005 and .NET 2.0? Or have you moved on to later versions already and found we’re holding you back? Let me know, either as a comment to this post, or by emailing me directly at julianb@devexpress.com. Of course, you can also email the full management team using management@devexpress.com, if you wish.

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